Keeping Pets Safe and Cool in the Heat

Toby is cool in the pool. (Photo submitted by Casey Post)

During the summer heat, keeping pets inside an air-conditioned environment is ideal but not possible for some owners and shelters.  Here are a some tips for keeping dogs and cats safe and cool in the hot weather.

  •  We are not on a stationary planet.  As such, the places that provide shade in your yard in the morning will not be shady in the afternoon.  A dog house is not adequate shade – more like a place to bake bread.  Dogs left outdoors during daylight hours in the summer must have access to shade all day long.
  • Anything left outside in this weather heats up, including buckets of cold water.  It is not enough to put out a bowl of cold water in the morning – the water bowl must be rinsed of debris (insects, pine straw, etc.) and replenished throughout the day.  Some dogs will dunk their heads in their water buckets in an attempt to cool down which further dirties the water.  Buckets should be kept in the shade to reduce algae formation and the time it takes for the water to heat up.
  • Many dogs enjoy having the sprinkler left on or wading in a kiddie pool.  Even dogs who don’t enjoy these activities will sometimes roll around in the wet grass that’s left in the aftermath.  We have both kinds of dogs at our house so everybody gets some manner of cool down they enjoy.
  • Here’s Bernice Clifford from the Animal Farm Foundation showing how to make ice bucket treats for dogs.  They’re cool, they provide enrichment for bored dogs, they’re cheap and easy – suitable for owned pets and shelter pets.
  • Kibble dehydrates pets. If possible, feed dogs and cats light meals (some pets will reduce the amount of food consumed naturally in hot weather) of home prepared or canned pet food during a heat wave. This reduces the amount of water they need to consume.

I know readers will have more good tips for keeping pets safe and comfortable in the summer heat.  Please share in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Keeping Pets Safe and Cool in the Heat

  1. Good ideas Shirley! I would also add to be aware that hot pavement can burn a dog’s feet – generally if it would hurt us to walk on it barefoot then it’s too hot for the dog.
    Also, if I’m not sure a dog is drinking enough during the day, I’ll add extra water to her food (if she will eat it that way). I find this especially useful when traveling.

    1. Barb, you are so right! I see people walking their dogs across the parking lot into Petco or Petsmart and they stop to talk to people, standing there not realizing that their dog is shifting foot to foot, clearly uncomfortable! I will always say something if I see this because too many people simply don’t realize how hot that blacktop is.

  2. we fill 2 liter soda bottle, empty milk cartons, old butter tubs etc with water and freeze them, then pop a big frozen ice cube in their water. Some of our guys are housed in indoor/outdoor kennels rather than in the house. While they do have heat in the winter, they do not have air conditioning. Floor fans really improve the air flow and misters attached to the outdoor portion of the kennel can lower the air temp up to 15 degrees

  3. We don’t have central air conditioning – just one room unit and some fans – so it gets hot inside, too, if it’s very hot outside.

    I put water bowls everywhere so it’s not difficult to find one, keep them clean, and now and then drop an ice cube in one. The dog likes the cold water, the cats don’t – they just like their bowls to be in places they don’t typically use for anything else. Fountain bowls will often encourage cats to drink – if you can’t afford the ready-made ones, you can make one of a bowl and a submersible pump, a decent low-power pump (you don’t need a strong one for this application) can be had for $15-$25 or sometimes less on sale. Glom the pump to the bottom of the bowl by its sucker feet, cover it with water to just below the top of the outlet hose, plug it in and you’re good to go.

    If you’ve a naked, sparsely-furred or white cat – or a cat with white ears – sunburn is a possibility. I had a kitty who insisted on getting right in the one accessible window that gets direct light, god rest him, and I finally resorted to covering the bottom half of it with foil. Fortunately it was where the neighbors couldn’t see. There’s UV blocking film available too, I’ve found out, a bit pricey and I gather a bit of a pain to put on, but I’m going to look into it.

  4. Yesterday it was 106 in the shade on my porch in Yanceyville, NC.. it’s 103 today and the next 3 days it won’t get much cooler. I do have central AC, but it has it’s draw backs. My five big dogs love to go out during the day. They don’t realize just hot hot it is until they get out there. To make sure they don’t get too hot.. I go with them… once I get hot.. we all come in. All my girls love ice cubes, it’s a riot to see them all lined up, sitting in a row waiting to get their ice cube treat.

  5. I live in AZ where it can get up to 120 degrees. My dog was always an inside dog and I NEVER kept her in a car without the AC on (seriously, how do people still do that in this day and age?). It saddens me for the animals who dont get this option.

  6. Don’t forget the ferals and wildlife, either. I know they appreciate some cool water and shade. I put out several containers for the ones who hang out in my yard. The squirrels, especially, like to spread eagle on the stone patio, under the trees.

    I’m glad you brought this up because it seems like every summer we hear about animals who are shut up in hot cars or left out without water and shade. Fortunately, our local animal control is very responsive and is actually seizing animals from unsafe conditions and getting the local news to do reminders. AND they will prosecute!

  7. Owners/caretakers of brachycephalic breeds (i.e. English/American Bulldogs, pugs, pekingese, etc.) should be aware that these breeds cannot cool their bodies as efficiently as a dog with normal air passages and should NOT be left in the heat for more than very short periods. A normal dog’s body does not cool itself as efficiently as a human’s body can. A human’s body is covered in sweat glands, whereas a dog simply uses its tongue, and a few sweat glands on the nose and paw pads to keep cool. Dogs can overheat much quicker than we can, and this is compounded for short-nosed breeds.

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